tv Hearing on Middle East Policy CSPAN November 8, 2019 6:44pm-8:02pm EST
issues. this is about an hour and 15 minutes. >> >> the chair will come to order. the subcommittee is meeting today to hear about the policy priorities for fiscal year 2020. we look forward to hearing from our witnesses about the fy 20 budgets, the near eastern affairs bureau. we thank the witnesses for appearing today. i now recognize myself for making an opening statement. thank you for testifying today. nearly three years into the trump administration, we have faced a multitude of challenges in the middle east. while the administration counts its maximum pressure policy, iran continues to destabilize countries from iraq to yemen to lebanon. despite bellicose rhetoric, iraq has iran has
attacked regional shipping, undermined u.s. credibility in the process. iran is more advanced today than on the day president trump took office and international communities are modified it confronting it. iran continues to unjustly confine americans and violate human rights of its own people. iran also continues to support al-assad and fuel conflict in syria, which has led to the deaths of more than 600 thousand people and the displacement of millions. the conflict and human at terry and crisis will reshape the middle east for decades to come, but our policy in syria remains ambiguous at best president trump has twice announced the rapid and complete withdrawal of troops from syria with little notice given to international partners on the ground. he has ceded american
leverage, remove pressure on isis, and betrayed our syrian partners who fought valiantly in recent years to counter isis with american support. i commend the successful operation this weekend to take out isis leader al-baghdadi, but the removal of one individual should not validate the current withdrawal strategy. if anything it shows the importance of the counterterrorism mission and cooperation with partners on the ground in syria. the president has provided strategic victory to our adversaries. russia has become the arbiter of serious future and increased its regional influence at the expense of the united states. yemen remains ravaged by civil conflicts, foreign intervention, and the worst humanitarian crisis. the president has offered support to saudi arabia, ignoring bipartisan support in congress for ending u.s. military support for coalition
operations. while i understand the risks posed, the conflict has led to the tens of thousands of civilian casuallities shifted focus, and dramatically worsen the humanitarian catastrophe. the region also faces ongoing challenges. they face threats from terrorist organizations and peace remains elusive. people on the banks are suffering. the dispute split into the council at a stalemate. libya has stayed on the doorstep of europe. in the arena for the expanding proxy war between regional powers. u.s. policy must not be solely reactionary and only respond to the many crises in the middle east. it must also be forward-looking. 45% of the middle east is under 25 years
old. presents a chance to reset u.s. relations with the people of the region in the coming decade. tunisia just completed a successful round as the country moves forward on the difficult path of democratic development. protesters took to the streets of algeria friday for the 36th week in a row to demand the government root out corruption better neat better meet the needs of their people and root out corruption. it also led to the resignation of the lebanese promised earlier today. more than eight years after millions took to the streets to protest corruption, these demonstrations indicate too many regional governments remain unaccountable to their people and opposed to open civil society, transparency, and human rights. i'm disappointed the trump administration has offered an inconsistent message on human rights and democratic values at a time when many are questioning american commitment to the region. the administration has too often
turned a blind eye to human rights abuses and equivocated in expressing support. the administration often articulates maximus to goals in the middle east but has cut resources needed to achieve them. for the third straight year the administration has proposed to drastic cuts to our foreign affairs budget. the fy 20 budget requested an estimated $6.5 billion in total bilateral assistance to the region, a figure that is 6% less than the fy 19 request and 11% less than what congress appropriated it fy 19. this subcommittee has oversight responsibilities, and i hope this hearing today can help us get better understanding of the administration's strategy and a clear articulation of u.s. policy in the middle east and how we are allocating u.s. resources. i'm grateful to the witnesses for appearing. with that i will turn it over to ranking member wilson for his opening statement. >> thank you
for calling this important hearing, examining the trump administration's policy objectives for the turbulent middle east. we appreciate our distinguish witnesses for their extraordinary service and for their testimony before the committee today. formulating u.s. policy is not easy, but letting alone the crafting of policy with so many complexities in a region like the middle east, but our witnesses have their jobs cut out for them and we thank them for their positive efforts. the middle east has been exposed to both democratic and republican administrations, but despite difficulties the u.s. has remained engaged in the region. we have been invested in the people and the potential of the
middle east. although we may have disagreed across the aisle about specific policies, we can all agree u.s. engagement and commitment to the middle east is necessary. it is definitely preferred to a middle east in which rogue regimes like russia, iran, or china are powerbrokers. to be fair the trump administration has presided over many important successes in the middle east. today's hearing comes just days after the u.s. special forces successfully conducted a raid in the northwest area of syria which led to the deserve death of the leader of isis and murders al-baghdadi. but to ensure this murderous ideology of isis does not resurrect from the ashes of syria and iran will require an enduring american commitment, not just to the global war against terrorism but the stability of the middle east itself. i also commend this administration for
spearheading the maximum pressure campaign against iran. this is the right approach against the world's foremost date sponsor of terrorism. i'm deeply concerned about the current approach simply not being enough. in the past year alone, iran has cemented its stranglehold over iraq and lebanon and significantly increase the amount of territory they control in syria. it appears there is only so much that can be accomplished through economic sanctions alone. how are we working to push back increased iranian influence in the region in ways other than sanctions? consistently over the decades, iranians have remained committed to exporting their people ideology throughout the middle east, fostering terrorism, sectarianism, and violence everywhere. meanwhile the united states has sought the support to support democracy in the region, hemming and hawing about its role in the region. there are
plenty of reasons for the u.s. to renew with resolve and commitment to the region. the middle east today is teeming with potential. in the past year we have seen citizens of sudan, egypt, algeria and most recently iraq and lebanon take to the streets and give expression to their democratic aspirations. i'm even hopeful the spark of liberty will one day ignite a democratic movement in iran as well. which has such an historic background, reflective of the culture. just last week the world as the runner-up in the tunisian elections met with the newly elected president, a sign of strength and faith in tunisia's democratic institution. i was fortunate to travel to tunisia last month with the helsinki commission, and i was inspired to see this fledgling democracy in action. the u.s. must not
concede influence to those who counter the spirit of democracy and freedom in the middle east. there simply no substitute for u.s. leadership in the region. i look forward to hearing from the distinguished witnesses today and i yelled back my time. and i yelled back my time. >> it is now my pleasure to introduce the witnesses. before i do that, without objection, all members have five days to submit questions. assistant secretary david schenker is the assistant secretary of near eastern affairs at the u.s. department of state. he was sworn in on june 14 2019. prior to that, he was the director of the program on politics at the washington institute policy. he previously served in the office of the secretary of defense, and he was awarded the office of secretary of defense medal for exceptional civilian service in 2005. before joining the
government in 2002 he was a research fellow at the washington institute and a project coordinator. assistant administrator michael harvey was appointed assistant administrator of usaid in january 2019. he comes to the position after serving more than 30 years as a foreign service officer with usaid with multiple overseas assignments including mission director in nigeria come mission director of the west bank of gaza, deputy mission director of iraq and jordan. he most recently served as a faculty member at the national war college and washington, d.c. and the chair of the usaid as assistant to the administrator. he has received numerous awards from the department of state and usaid for his exceptional service. thank you both for being here today. let me remind witnesses to please limit testimony to five minutes. without objection, your
prepared statements will be made part of the record. thank you so much for being here today. assistant secretary schenker, you are recognized. >> thank you for inviting us here today. >> pull the microphone closer. thank you for inviting us here to discuss the budget requests stability of immigration is imperative in the middle east and african protecting the american people and our interests abroad. the core objective which benefits the u.s. press as well as the region drives our diplomatic the presidents fyi 2024 an assistant budget requested 6.6 billion for the region and shore that the defeat of isis
to help ethnic minorities throughout the region and secure political allies across the region. the request also recognizes that the united states cannot alone bear sole responsibility for challenges in the region this place is a emphasis on burden sharing leveraging taxpayer dollars from our partners. they're restraining their malign activities specifically supports of terrorism and militant strong diplomatic economic and skirting measures must be bolstered by the u.s. assistant programs that seat deny access and influence to iran in its proxy. the resources in the budget request it counter the influence in iraq lebanon and other partners local partners for the defeat
of isis is a major milestone this not be underestimated fy 20 request encourages our allies to support stabilization activities in syria. we also continue to hold isis accountable for the atrocities it has committed, including genocide against members of iraq's persecuted communities. ensuring the survival of the religious and ethnic minority communities is of vital interest to the united states and stands in a direct opposition to isis'visionv isis sought to impose. it will allow iraq to become a stabilized influence in the region. the requested budget supports u.s. assistance, promotes further integration of iraq into the global economy, creating greater opportunities and jobs at home. as we have seen come stabilization in syria require more resources than one country alone should provide. we expect our allies and partners to increase contributions to stabilize syria and keep isis from progressing. we will
address humanitarian means for durable peace. the fy 20 budget requests 41 million in economica assistance to support the yemeni people and their institutions. the fy 20 budget reflects our commitment for israeli peace, which hinges on a safe and secure israel, consistent with the 2019 through 2028 mou. the budget request is the single largest foreign assistance investment in the region, 3.1 billion. the administration continues to work towards a copper of and lasting peace between israel and the palestinians. in support of these efforts, the fy 20 budget includes a request for $35 million for the palestinian security at the sources and funding that can also be used for assistant to the west bank gaza. encouraging deeper partnerships between israel and its neighbors will reduce israel's international
isolation and improve regional security. the fy 20 request includes $1.2 billion for jordan, consistent with the bilateral mou. i would like to thank the subcommittee for sharing the administration's staunch support for the u.s.-jordan relationship, weathering the syrian crisis come supporting long-term u.s.-jordanian relationship. egypt is also important to u.s. interests. the fy 20 request includes $1.3 billion to support the armed forces capacity, counterterrorism, and secure the countries land and maritime borders including the suez canal. in closing, the president's fy 20 request is for national security priorities in the region and advances our interests. thank you for your enduring support of diplomacy in the region and
our foreign service investments. our ability to respond quickly to needs in the region and allocate funding effectively requires your continued support. i look forward to answering your questions. thank you. >> thank you. >> thank you, chairman. thank you for the opportunity to testify on the important role of the development and humanitarian assistance programming in advancing u.s. interests in the middle east and north africa. it is an honor to be here and to be representing the professionals of usaid. usaid recognizes most of the nations in this region are actually middle-income countries, countries with young populations whose energy,
education, and educatio in intelligence can be kept can play a critical role in helping these countries lock in democratic advances where they have occurred and drive job-c reating economic growth through free-market economies. in line with administration policies, usaid focuses its programming to help analyze and graduating countries through foreign assistance. helping partners build self-reliance is key to the broader u.s. effort to counter malign influences coming from outside, while demonstrating american values. in iraq, we continue to support the government's initiative to strengthen fiscal management. progress in these areas will
strengthen iraqi sovereignty and provide an effective counter to iranian influences within the society. another key area of focus is our support for religious and ethnic minorities in northern iraq. building on the investment we have made thus far to help communities recover from the atrocities of isis. the administration is requesting $150 million to support vulnerable religious and ethnic minority groups globally. this investment will help ensure these communities are able to remain in their historical homelands and to thrive as crucial components in their society. i want to note as part of our effort to expand the partner base as a global initiative, earlier this month, they announced six direct iraqi organizations working to
implement our programming with and ability with ethnic and religious communities targeted with genocide. our programs, targeting science, technology, engineering, and math programs in egypt. the government in egypt has expanded the programs across the country, demonstrating the capacity to take on the successes and address and forward the country's development effort. let's be clear, job creation across the region is a key concern. our work with the private sector is yielding results. we recently handed diplomas and employment contracts to the first group of logistics students who graduated in the suez corridor logistics training program. and we are doing similar projects across the region helping both the firm's and young people he will employ. firms and the young people they will employ. in tunisia, the u.s. played an
important role since 2011 in solidifying the country's democratic transition. during my recent visit there, i was honored to officially reopen the usaid tunisia office. on the same trip, signed our first five-year bilateral agreement with tunisia. i traveled to tunisia's interior, where i had the leisure the pleasure of visiting businesses that are now growing with young people who are actively participating with their local governments and setting a path forward for their communities. before i close, to echo the secretary's remarks, the administration's foreign assistance request prioritizes investments smashed my host government commitment
and encourages international donors to share the burden of development. he said programs restored water to thousands of syrians to areas liberated from isis. we hope to revitalize agriculture, rebuild canals, and all the activities funded by coalition partners. we will continue to put u.s. interest's first and be interests first. through the strategic and efficient use of resources, we will continue to prevent i look forward to your questions. >> thanks to both of you for being here. a sincere thanks for your work and service to the country advancing american interests. we will now begin a five-minute questioning. i will be followed by the ranking member.
secretary, last week, the iranian foreign ministry reportedly sent to the u.s. a list of people demanding any proposed prisoner swap. in a proposed prisoner swap. could you speak to the administration's recent proposal and tell us whether the administration would engage in a prisoner exchange with iran or does not reject the idea on principle? >> thank you for the question, congressman. the u.s. administration's priority is to get back americans held unjustly in iran, basically hostages over there. this is not a prisoner exchange. we are talking about exchanging people who have been kidnapped, americans were in iran who are in iran versus iranian prisoners, people who have done illegal things here,
like try and kill the saudi ambassador in georgetown. through an iranian plot. it is a priority to get our people back. >> can you tell us whether there are any talks on the way? to secure the release of americans held hostage. >> >> i'm not going to get into those details here. what i would say is that it is a priority for us to get our people back. there has been a history in the steps of offers when you pay for this type of behavior, when you pay for kidnapping. you generally get
more. >> to both of you, me ask about the administration's freedom of assistant in august of 2018. if congress asked to remove the constraints proposed by the clarification act much in the u.s. consider resuming aid to palestinians? and if so, under which conditions? >> let me start by saying that the administration supports the victims of terrorism. this is an important piece of legislation. >> does the administration support so-called? >> we are willing to engage with congress to fix that. >> can you answer the
question about age? >> i will let the assistant secretary address the issue. it is a broader conversation. if assistance were to resume, if the political decision were made and the circumstances justify that, we will look closely with palestinian partners to determine where to start. i would not want to prejudge it now. historically, wastewater and water have been high priorities for the israeli neighbors and palestinians themselves. i'm sure that will be one place where we would start. >> so, thank you for your offer to work with us. assuming it is achieved, should age start to flow eight start to flow? should aid start to flow? >> i think that would have to be something that would come out after the rollout of the peace plan. but i cannot really comment on whether --
>> why is that? >> i think that there is this enormous aid package that awaits the and palestinians that underpins the aid proposal. >> let's just talk about that. can you tell us what role your desk has played or you personally have played, in helping to draft this proposal? >> none. >> but you are aware of what is in it? >> no. >> i've seen public statements from kushner about this that talk about -- >> let me just focus on the one issue of u.s. security assistance. help me understand why we should wait for a peace proposal that may come soon army never come at all or may never come little to fund and help protect palestinians and israelis.
>> that's a great question we would love that right now. >> we have allocated $35 million. we have a security coordinator out there, we a fully staffed. we would love to spend the $35 million to do the training. we are being held back by the acta. that is good to go, the $35 million. >> any other projects? are there any other projects? in my understanding, operations have essentially wound down in west bank and gaza as a result of both the combination of acta and the and the administration's decision. can you prioritize were funds would be spent >> i don't have a list right now, but i can get back to you on that. i would think that wastewater management would be a public element. >> i appreciate that.
>> thank you both of you for being here and for your service. both of you, i know, make a difference on behalf of freedom and democracy in the world. assistant secretary, what is the eastern affairs bureau of the state department doing to counter iranian influence in the region? >> well, first of all, we are implementing sanctions iranians. this has resulted in some $50 billion in oil revenue. it is likely going to result in a constriction of their economy by double digits by the end of 2019. this economic pressure provides them with less money with which to fund their regional proxies, terrorist organizations, like hezbollah. which are facing lack of funds available to them. we are working with our partners and multilaterally
constrain iran's maligned behavior. building coalitions in the region whether through the international maritime security construct, operation sentinel, and also calling out iran by name. to hold iran responsible for what it did in aramco if you expect. a few weeks back that was sort of unprecedented. we are exposing iran, the iranian regime's brutality and governance problems. we are working through local partners strengthening and financially backing the lebanese forces, which someday could serve as a counterbalance to some of iran's activities. lebanon, we are pressing our saudi allies,
actually with some prospect of success, to get a peace agreement in yemen, which would roll back houthi influence. >> we appreciate each of your initiatives. can you guarantee to the subcommittee the u.s. response is sent to the iraqi government? including the iraqi federal police, which could be dispersed to the iranian backed militias operating in the country? >> i believe that is the case. of not providing any fmf to iraq this year. >> thank you. assistant secretary, what
is your assessment of the relationship between the un operations within syria and the assad regime in damascus? would you say the assad regime benefits from u.s. programming and syria? >> may answer is no, it would not benefit the assad regime. >> you are raising an issue that concerns us greatly. the one activity that we do have in assad controlled areas is our humanitarian assistance program that is implemented almost exclusively through un agencies with a few exceptions the issue of keeping control of resources and ensuring the integrity of the program is a const constant challenge. it is something we watch very closely. pleased to keep the attention on it as we
will as well. >> i am grateful we have bipartisan legislation on this point. i know it is not covered very often, but i actually people of both parties can work together substantially, particularly in the middle east. secretary, are there any u.s. individuals detained by the saudi government, and what claims are they making to their release? >> this is an issue of concern. there is a dual nationalist thing held by the saudis. we have been engaging with the saudi government continuously about the case, he has been held for some two years without being charged. recently, he was charged and
released. they are going through a trial. we hear that is a positive development, and hopefully that trial will be over soon and he will be exonerated and will be able to come home. >> thank you for following through on that. i yield back my time. >> i want to thank are witnesses for your service to our country. i am trying to discern this administration's policy in the middle east. on this subcommittee, we have heard testimony that has been widely ranging and conflicting, as well. we have handed the a lifeline in syria with our actionsm. you talked about how you are also calling for large cuts. to that budget. i'm trying to understand what our policy is. i want to begin with
these cuts. in with the priorities that you have laid out. many of them, i agree with. and the justification to increase sharing across international partners. do you believe this is actually going to lead to our allies contributing more, or are we just giving russia, iran, and china a bigger opening to increase influence in the region? >> thank you, congressman. i believe that our partners have stepped up. i think the best example of that would be syria. where the president, the administration zeroed at the budget for humanitarian assistance and we raised the $25 million budget, including the millions from
saudi arabia and the uae. they stepped up and they stepped up again for this year. so, i think across the board, we find our allies >> the you find these commitments to be sustainable? do you find these commitments to be sustainable? because we have a national security interest in this region. we don't use foreign aid out of the goodness of our hearts, it allows us not to have to commit our brave men and women to conflicts abroad. we have a national security interest in it. if we are shaking down our allies and getting them to step in while we are not going to pay, maybe the short term, that is something we can do. i don't see that a sustainable middle east policy for the united states. >> i understand your concern. so far, we have been successful in raising funds for our allies. i think we have to go every day and make the case
to them about why it is not only in our interests, but in their interest. certainly saudi arabia and the uae have stepped up on syria. across the board, if they see things and share in many ways the perception in the region, and are willing to back our efforts >> let's talk about syria and how this turkish incursion impacts this budget request. is this reflective of these current events, or is this something that was formulated before these events? >> the budget was formulated before the turkish invasion. >> how is the invasion going to impact the request and your plans in the region? >> that's a good question. we have in the budget quite a bit of flexibility. not only what the president said immediately after the invasion, we would
provide $50 million plus another 4.5 millions for the helmets and humanitarian assistance, but funds if there is a mess refugee flow of syrian kurds, or syrians into iraqi kurdish area. we have flexibility through the relief and recovery fund, which has $145 million and it. the diplomatic progress fund. >> i understand. if we are going to appropriate, we need to be part of this discussion about how this is going forward. if you could talk about usaid's role in this particular refugee crisis we are seeing unfolding in syria? >> when we are dealing with the issue of refugees, we will be working
very closely with the state department colleagues in the refugee bureau. we have been supporting the humanitarian assistance program in syria, which includes people in their homes, but also people who have been displaced by the conflict. we have about 90,000 people displaced from the recent kurdish-turkish actions. we will be supporting them through the ongoing humanitarian assistance program. for the most part, we have access to them, and our partners are implementing programs remarkably. if there is we have about 12,000 refugees who have crossed into iraq. the systems are in place. resources are in place to deal with the population. we are actually using it planning figure of about 50,000. if we are lucky, we will not get anywhere near that. hopefully cease-fire operations stay where they are.
my worry is less of dealing with the immediate humanitarian situation as it is, reestablishing as it is reestablishing in that area. >> i agree and that's why i disagree with the budget request. >> we will formulate what we think is necessary. think you for your time. thank you for your time. >> thank you both for being here. i want to say specifically on usaid, you guys do not get enough credit. when you live you a conflict when you alleviate a conflict, i want to thank you on your folks for all of the work. i think it is important to make sure we are spending taxpayer resources effectively and efficiently. i think we should not cut those resources simply to cut them, we should make
sure they are efficient. it is important to make sure we are following the priorities even if we disagree. that is where we come into play, especially in an area like this. the people who took out al-baghdadi this weekend was a great thing. it is not the end of the war and i says, this is a generational fight. on isis, this is a generational fight. that is where you guys come in importantly, making sure the next generation is not radicalized, and actually push back against radicalization. the more leaders we kill, then the dumber they get. you take them out and i celebrate the number you are taking outcome of soon, they run out of people to lead. obviously, i have expressed a lot of concerns with syria's policy. i do want to turn to the regime, i think
the corruption was key to al-baghdadi's caliphate. i think now it seems that assad will consolidate much control over the country. you mentioned rebuilding and usaid projects. i want to ago what my colleagues said, we don't want taxpayer dollars going toward propping up a thought. assad. i know you guys are with me on this. as the founder of the syria caucus, i will continue to urge my colleagues to hold those responsible for war crimes in syria accountable. if president trump were to sign into law the syrian protection act of 2019, what kind of impact with that have on the assad regime and their supporters? >> thank you. i
share with you the pleasure, the killing of al-baghdadi. >> worth celebrating. >> it is a great thing. i think that it is important that we recognize what assad has done. we spending money in funding projects to document the mass atrocities. we are working on record-keeping, underwriting some of that. this is a regime that is beyond pale. we are focused narrowly on three things in syria, preventing a resurgence of isis, we are working on preventing iranian influence in the country and rolling that back, and also a
political future with the implementation of 2254. this is the issue about caesar. this is a regime that cannot be allowed to persist as is. refugees were not angela reduces conflict. and ullary to this conflict. awesome ethnically cleansed his country of saudi muslims. >> another point on that is, it is going to be out of those refugee camps that assad created. people are hopeless, uneducated. it is easy to blame whatever. that is where you find radicalization. countering that will be important. can you also address, with putin standing up the assad regime, how can you counter their maligned influence in the region? >> the iranians the syrians the russians are playing that pernicious role
across the region. it is not just in syria. it is libya, and elsewhere. we are working on a number of strategies, trying to contain them by working with our allies. we are certainly hammering our allies with warnings about the sanctions and others. but also, letting them know, having a friend dialogue about what russia does a frank dialogue about what russia does when they are on the ground. >> i think it is important, too. it is a lesson when they showed up in syria in 2012, 2013. we see them in venezuela, elsewhere, stop them early. thank you both for your service. i yield back. >> thank you, mr. chairman. assistant secretary, i will start off by just reading the lead of a
story in the wall street journal from yesterday about egypt, and about one young woman in particular, a political activist in that country. the lead of the story is, egyptian security officers grabbed her from the car in the country's capital on october 12 and blindfolded her, took her to a secure facility, to lawyers who visited her in prison said she was slapped, beaten, threatened with electrocution. officers threatened her. to unlock her phone. she refused and they choked her with her own jacket, forcibly used her fingers to unlock her phone. you know was well as i do, that this is a routine story in egypt. things have gotten worse in the last month. more than 4000 people detained since protests seeking the removal of president cece
started. it started the largest wave of arrests the country has seen since taking to power. and, i don't think i need to ask you if this is wrong, because i'm sure you agree that it is. i will ask this, since our egypt policy is based on advancing our security interest, does this kind of repression, which is escalating now, help or hurt legitimate efforts to fight extremism and terrorism in the country? >> thank you i am familair with the story i met her several times. i think it is outrageous. i had the ambassador in my office last week to talk about ezra. this matters greatly to the administration. egypt has a
long way to go on human rights. the administration made a statement in september talking about the rights of egyptians to demonstrate peacefully and the obligation of the egyptian authorities to protect demonstrators. this is something that is very important to the administration. we talk about it. >> thank you, and i'm glad you do that but i'm asking a more fundamental question because i sat in your chair a few years ago saying egypt had a long way to go and it seems to have an even longer way to go today and yet, care we have the same security relationship we used to have. any progress in sinai over the past several years? once again, the question i would ask you, do their tactics help or hurt in the fight against what we say is our shared enemy? >> on sinai,
they have made some progress. it is incremental. they have received training that is more narrowly tailored to that type of counterterrorism mission but more importantly, they have recognized, and through our counsel, that counterterrorism requires more than just a military component and i'll let my colleague mike harvey talk about what we are doing and the egyptians are doing in that regard. >> hold on, i don't have that much time, because i have a different question i want to ask mr. harvey. look, i would just say the fundamental problem here is that even as the president pulls back from syria, claims it is just a bunch of sand and we need to get out of the middle east, we
can't do these things forever, when the people we were helping, both kurdish and arab are fighting and dying with us to fight terrorism, many of whom share our values, civil society activists who are we are no longer supporting because we have pulled back so much of our programming to and we continue to spend $1.3 billion of taxpayer money helping the egyptian military put on parades with their tanks and that doesn't sit well with me. i have a quick question with little time left for you mr. harvey about yemen. when was the last time we were through the u.n. provided a no strike list to the saudi military in terms of humanitarian locations, targets that we asked them not to hit in yemen? >> congressman, i don't know but i know it is a constant point of discussion between our two governments. >>
we have provided them with no strike lists? >> we have, both through a id uid and our colleagues. >> that is important to confirm on the record because we not only have brought concerns about human rights and targeting we have shared with a saudi's they haven't always listened to, but specific locations and coordinates they have hit that we have specifically given them as locations not to hit. i think that elevates this to the highest possible level of concern. thank you. i yield back. >> you are recognized. >> thank you, mr. chairman and i want to apologize for not being here to hear testimony. i have an honor flight to the world war ii memorial and that is obviously a priority. we see the great american heroes used to be mostly world war ii veterans like my father who would be 100 if he were still
alive next month, but now, it is korean war veterans and vietnam war veterans and on and on. it is one of those things, so i apologize for not being here earlier and if i repeat some of the questions that were answered, i apologize for that too. i appreciate the tougher line taken against iran for the most part which under the freehand given by the jcpoa greatly expanded its influence in the region and i would like to focus on iran's so-called land bridge to the mediterranean. a critical goal of this quarter is for iran to be able to threaten and potentially ultimately attack one of our most significant allies in the world and that is israel. could either of the gentleman here discuss the administration's plan to
curtail iran's ability to move equipment or supplies or fighters into and through syria and onto the israeli border? >> thank you congressman. the land bridge is an issue of enormous concern to the administration. before the turkish incursion, into northern syria, the positioning of our troops there had a benefit to being present and fighting isis had limited iran's ability to do everything it wanted. we still have residual presence there. as long as we are able to provide security and stability and work with our partners in these areas we continue to do areas,
which we continue to do, that may limit iran's ability somewhat, but this is a priority. if we curtail our presence, it become more difficult to do so. the israelis have appeared to hit iranian targets in syria for some time. attempted weapons transfers to weapon lebanon. this is something that is not a secret, so that in some ways is curtailing the efforts to establish this land bridge full-time. >> thank you. did you want to add anything? >> not specifically, congressman because we are on a broader debate but much of what uid develops on the region is enabling these countries to stand on their own as sovereign programs, it better enables
them to push back from the nefarious intent of both russia and others. >> in some ways, the weak link has been iraq, more than syria.'s as you know, iran is storing ballistic missiles in iraq. iraq is not able to observe its sovereignty and push back. this is a real problem and will remain a problem for some time until iraq can assert sovereignty. >> thank you very much and i'm sure my next question has probably been mentioned and discussed prior to my being here. obviously, the taking out al-baghdadi was a huge victory, just a horrific, horrible individual, the head of probably the most despicable organization that we have seen in a long, long time. so i want to commend the president and
all those who worked with him in accomplishing this and principally, our men and women in uniform who took the action to end this horrible person's time on this earth. could you discuss the administration's plans moving forward to ensure isis does not reestablish itself, a new caliphate in syria under a new leader? what are the administration's plans at this point in ensuring that doesn't happen? >> thank you, congressman. that is a top priority for the administration, the prevention of the resurgence of isis to isis 2.0.
the administration continues to work with our stf partners on the ground in syria. we have troops embedded with units and we continue to fight isis there. that will be a key point of our presence going forward, whether outside that area so i anticipate that mission will remain a high priority for the indefinite future. this, as congressman tengion for said congressman ken said. >> mr. keating, you are recognized. >> following up, on iraq, great concern. please seen the demonstrations, we know the situation in detail. there was a mortar for nonemergency personnel to leave. that will
run out next month. it seems from the budget there has been a cut in security funds to represent what the future is there. it is such a critical area along with so many other areas but without a presence there, it will be that much more difficult. could you comment on what process prospects look like in this critical area right now that gets often overlooked? >> i share your concern. the safety and well-being of the diplomats in anynea is my responsibility in many ways. on order of departure, we have been eight days in seven days, it will be six months. the security situation is such that this is what i believe the new normal. that said, while we have not the height of numbers we had
before, we have sufficient numbers on the ground to do our mission and even under order of departure, this year so far we have done more visits with iraqi partners outside the embassy compound than we did when we had our full compound the year we went on order of departure. we are engaged diplomatically as we were before, even more so. our military presence there, while it has been zeroed out, part of it is the military funding where it can do train, equip, fund, and work with the iraqi military notwithstanding, so we remain engaged. we have numbers of troops there. we have a full diplomatic i have been in iraq may be four times in the past four months. so this is a priority for us. if you want to roll back iran in the region, this is the beachhead. we are there and we are not leaving.
>> thank you for your engagement in that. briefly, there have been 14 million yemenis on the verge of starvation, 85,000 have died in famine. what are we doing there to help one of the worsening humanitarian situations in the world? your microphone. >> yemen is a remarkable challenge for all of us. it is one of the largest humanitarian assistance programs anywhere. it is an extremely difficult place to do work. the de facto authorities in the north make it very difficult and yet, despite that, we are extremely proud of the
wfp colleagues but also unicef and the american and national ngos working in yemen. >> i wanted to touch another topic, too. i've long felt we can have a greater significance if we could better work with our key you allies and coordinate better what they are doing and what we are doing in critical areas of the world. is there an opportunity, a multiplier effect beyond what we are doing now because there is enormous opportunity. >> i couldn't agree with you more. the eu is an instant interesting institution. i'll leave it at that. in countries like yemen where we are dependent on the u.n. it is easier because the mechanisms or forces pool funding activities. in countries where we have more bilateral programming, there is more coordination than you
might see but they are, to be honest challenging partners because of the bureaucracy is even slower than ours and whenever i am feeling frustrated about the bureaucracy, i look at others and feel better. it is something we are committed to, we meet with brussels counterparts but let's not forget the germans, french, british bilateral assistance programs are huge around the world. those bilateral relationships are extremely close. i've spent four years dealing with boko haram in nigeria not successfully, but that is another conversation. the partnership we had with the brits and germans was as good as we could get. >> i hope it is something the committee and subcommittee can continue to work on. thank you for your service, i yield back. >> you
are recognized. >> thank you, mr. chairman. assistant secretary, accountability for the murder of jamal khashoggi is vital to the broader u.s. interest of supporting the rights and freedoms of the press. does not failing to provide consequences for the ke$ha jamal khashoggi assassination embolden perpetrators and what is the administration doing to prevent the possibility? >> thank you, congressman. accountability is critical in the murder of jamal khashoggi. it is something that matters to me personally, as well. in 2018, the administration sanctioned some 17 saudis involved in the murder of jamal khashoggi.
right now, there are some 11 defendants in saudi arabia in the middle of trial. both the defense and the prosecution have finished their cases and we are waiting on verdicts. i think the judicial process we see falls short of full accountability and we've indicated that the saudis. we are encouraging nonetheless a fair and transparent judicial process. >> it certainly seems we are not getting that at the end of the day, but under the crown prince, the saudi government has intensified its crackdown on activists. in 2018, the repression was directed against the women, seeking the head of the male guardianship system, the systematic abuse and repression. in may of 2018, prominent women were arrested,
others accused of grave crimes including treason directly related to their activism. there are reports women are subjected to sexual harassment and torture. what is the department's view on saudi arabia's crackdown on activists and dissidents? >> it is a concern of the administration and the state department, some of these human rights elevated allegations of abuse. it is a bit of a mixed bag here. for example, the saudi government in the last four months lifted ended the guardianship law. women can travel abroad without permission of their children, for example or male guardian. several women drivers have been released from jail. one, a dual national citizen, has now been charged and is on trial that has been released from jail.
another issue has been positive, as well. the saudi government is working to put the yemeni government back together by fostering negotiations, a transitional council and the h government. they have a de-escalation with the houthis that appears to be taking hold. at our encouragement, they gave the last of 500 $500 million of humanitarian assistance in yemen. saudi too has some way to come and there is room for improvement on human rights, but they are working on it. they are putting together a committee on trafficking human
persons to look into this work closely, more closely, so they don't have a bad rating next year assessment from the government. i think they are making an effort and in some places, succeeding. >> so it is an effort but it looks like there is lots of rooms to go. still have dissidents in jail, lots of conversations about torture and abuse. we still have a crown prince that has not been held accountable, so yeah. progress, great, but we are not where we need to be and we need to continue pressure and push for where we should be. we know morally where we should be. >> thank you, this is a topic of ongoing discussion between us and the saudis, but i think why we should continue pushing where credit is due, we should give them >> quickly, the tunisian legislative election happened in tunisia. we like to see it move in a good direction, but maybe 86 million roughly in half. do you have concern about the message it sends? >> we think the number is right on
tunisia. by the way, we suffer think the election we too think the elections were a dramatic success and see this as a positive development. i was in tunisia last month before the election, the commission should be a source of pride for them and certainly for the region, it is unusual. we think the number is the right figure. the money we provide for the security forces is the same basically, but some has decreased. if we need to, we can make that up. they also get a great deal of money from europeans, burden sharing, and all this money, it is an issue of capacity. think we are at the right amount. >> thank you.
>> thank you, mr. chairman. i just had a couple of follow-ups. secretary shanker, he said iraq is a beachhead in confronting iranian aggression? is that right? november is six months for extending the order of departures and you've got to decide the future of u.s. presence in iraq. are there plans to set strengthen the security of the u.s. embassy in iraq? tell me where that stands. >> this is something i spent a great deal of time on, actually. iraq, in particular. i don't want to get into the details of how we came to discussions. i think the security at the embassy is adequate. actually, better than adequate. >> sufficient for the
return of personnel? to enable the resumption? >> to accomplish the mission, yeah. we've got a number of diplomats we think is appropriate and i can brief you about this in another setting, but we are committed to the mission. >> i would like to do that, if we can arrange that had finally, on the topic of iran and syria. you said if we curtail our presence, it would be more difficult to prevent effectively the land bridge asked about earlier. did i understand you correctly, and you say if we curtail our presence the way we are doing, beyond what we are doing? what were you referring to? >> as ambassador jeffrey said
during i believe his testimony to you. our presence is a stabilizing force and to the degree that we are present makes better conditions for the right things to happen in syria. >> so are you confident that the current strategy effectively prevents iran from establishing that land bridge. that this committee has worried up so much about. i think it complements iranian efforts to do so. >> the administration has assessed u.s. efforts to prevent iranian forces in syria iraq and lebanon has not been successful? >> i think it is a work in progress. in iraq right now a lot of the violence that you are seeing is based on probably, these iranian overreach.
because iran is so enmeshed in a society like everywhere throughout the region nationalists are pushing back on this. >> so let me just wrap up again on this issue of the land bridge. how many troops are in -- >> i am not at liberty to say. >> but the withdrawal of troops from northern syria. the root draw of troops, i'm just trying to understand. >> there is no residual u.s. presidents. >> that goes on accounted. >> so you're confident that whatever that number is it is sufficient to prevent iran from establishing a land bridge from tehran through baghdad over to beirut. >> i think we could make a positive role on that front. >> i'm sure some is better than none. i am just asking whether
it is a sufficient number to prevent this from happening. >> i really cannot comment. >> i appreciate anything further. >> great, well thanks, thank you to the witnesses and all of the members for being here today. thank you for your testimonies. the system in the strait or harvey, members of the subcommittee may have some additional questions for you. when we asked for witnesses to please respond to those questions in writing. i would ask those colleagues to submit these questions within five business days and with that and without objection the subcommittee is adorned.
we talk about what the british army faced during the revolutionary war. the museum of the american revolution, the military museum and library and richards even has foundation cohost at this event as part of a free day international conference. >> >> my name is philip mead, director of curatorial affairs on the american revolution, and it is my president gregory